Cats are generally healthy pets. They are not very much prone to illnesses since they can tend to themselves. However, like any other animal, cats can still have health issues. So, in this section, we will talk about the most common cat health issues, prevention, and how to help cats live their best life.
Common Cat Health Issues
Cats can have the basic to most alarming kinds of health issues. Therefore, as owners, you must always ensure your cat is healthy. You must know if there are any behavioral changes or physical deterioration.
Here are the most common health issues in cats that you should know about:
Cancer in cats has no single cause. However, it can be caused by their diet, environment, and even genes. Some types of cancers in cats are lymphosarcoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Lymphosarcoma is the most common type of cancer in felines.
Moreover, this type of cancer can be caused by the Feline leukemia virus (FeLV). Although this virus has a vaccine, if your cat has already acquired the disease, it is a little bit more challenging to cure. Squamous cell carcinoma is a skin cancer that happens when cats are constantly exposed to direct sunlight. Light-colored cats are more prone to this type of cancer.
Diabetes in cats is a complex condition characterized by either a lack of or an inadequate response to the hormone insulin. After a cat eats, the digestive system breaks down the food into several components, including glucose, which insulin transports into her cells.
When a cat’s insulin production or utilization is impaired, blood sugar levels rise. As a result, hyperglycemia develops, leading to various serious health issues in a cat if left untreated. It is critical to remember that diabetes is a treatable disease, and many diabetic cats can live happy, healthy lives. Some may even experience remission!
Diabetes is classed as follows:
- Type I (insufficient insulin production)
- Type II (poor insulin production as well as inadequate hormone response).
Type II diabetes in cats can advance to type I diabetes. In fact, most cats are diagnosed with type I diabetes by the time they are diagnosed with diabetes. These cats must be given insulin to live. Other forms of therapy may be effective in cats with type II illnesses.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Cats with FIV may not exhibit symptoms for several years after contracting the virus. Although the virus is slow-acting, the sickness significantly weakens a cat’s immune system. This puts the cat vulnerable to a variety of secondary infections.
Infected cats who receive supportive medical care and are housed in a stress-free, indoor environment can have relatively pleasant lives for months or years before the disease progresses to the chronic stage. Blood tests are used to diagnose FIV.
Although there is no treatment for FIV, infected cats can live normal lives if the infection is appropriately handled. FIV is frequently overlooked; afflicted cats may not show symptoms for years after infection. Symptoms that may develop as the cat ages include:
- Appetite loss
- Inadequate coat condition
- Infections that are chronic or reoccurring
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
The feline leukemia virus, identified in the 1960s, is a transmittable RNA retrovirus that can severely impair your cat’s immune system. It is one of domestic cats’ most common causes of illness and death. Because the virus doesn’t often develop symptoms immediately away, any new cat in the house and any sick cat should be tested for FeLV.
FeLV symptoms include:
- Appetite loss
- Diarrhea that persists
- Fever that does not go away
- Infections of the skin, urinary tract, or lungs
- Seizures or neurological conditions
- Various eye problems
- Weight reduction
FeLV infection can result in leukemia, lymphoma, and infertility. Although there is no cure for FeLV, with adequate treatment, cats can have long and healthy lives.
Although this is not the most deadly illness in cats, fleas and worms can still pose harm to your beloved pet. Fleas can cause anemia if they are not treated. Some fleas also carry diseases that are harmful to cats and even humans.
Here are some signs to know if your cat has fleas:
- Constant scratching
- Excessive licking
- Hair loss in some areas
- Flea dirt
- Skin infection or hot spots
- Skin irritation
Heartworm, which is spread by infected mosquitos, is rapidly becoming recognized as an underlying cause of health issues in household cats. Cats are unusual hosts for heartworms. Despite its name, heartworm is primarily responsible for lung illness in cats. It is a major worry for any cat owner who lives in mosquito-infested areas, and prevention should be explored with a veterinarian.
Cats are recognized for their ability to land on all fours from tremendous heights, yet they can still sustain significant damage if they fall. High-rise syndrome can result in shattered limbs, damaged teeth, and other catastrophic injuries.
Cats are the most frequently domesticated animals infected with rabies in the United States. Rabies is a viral illness that affects all animals’ brains and spinal cords, including cats, dogs, and humans. Except for Hawaii, every state has reported this avoidable illness.
A cat will exhibit behavioral abnormalities and neuromuscular symptoms if bitten by a rabid animal. It is critical to maintaining your cat’s rabies shots up to date. You should also keep your cats indoors whenever possible to avoid being bitten. There’s a reason why the name “rabies” makes people nervous: once symptoms show, rabies is almost always lethal.
Upper Respiratory Infections
A cat’s upper respiratory tract is prone to infections. Some of the causes are bacteria, viruses, Feline calicivirus, and feline herpesvirus, among others. The feline calicivirus and feline herpesvirus are believed to account for 80 to 90% of URIs in cats.
These infections cannot be noticed immediately. Some owners may notice their cat’s behavioral changes. However, since this is a problem inside, the illness is often already at its peak.
How to Keep Your Cat Healthy
Not all of the diseases mentioned above are inherited. Therefore, there are ways to prevent them and keep your cat safe from them. Most of these ways need to be done before the illness, so make sure to keep these in mind.
Cats need proper balanced nutrition from their food to keep their body healthy. To prevent illnesses, give them cat food that is rich in protein and essential fatty acids. Protein will help their cells, tissues, and organs to grow and develop, while the essential fatty acids will serve as their energy source.
Avoid too salty and too dry food for cats. Some of them do not like to drink water. Therefore, giving them semi-moist or canned food can help them obtain some fluid.
Some of the viral infections mentioned above can be prevented if your cat is vaccinated. Kittens can receive their first set of vaccines at an early age of nine weeks old. Vets can give booster shots when they are 3 months old and above.
Cats can receive vaccines against cat flu or feline herpes virus, feline calicivirus, feline leukemia virus, and feline infectious enteritis. Although vaccination can boost your cat’s protection against these viruses, it is still not 100% that they will not get the disease. Therefore, always consult your vet at least once or twice a year.
Mental and Physical Stimulation
Cats are more active pets than they appear to be. Since cats release most of their energy at night, when everybody is asleep, their humans may think that they don’t need much mental and physical stimulation. However, these needs should be addressed for cats to be healthy in every aspect.
You can give your cats some puzzle feeders or toy treat dispensers for mental stimulation. This way, they are not just eating continuously and quickly out of a bowl. You can also give them toys to hunt since it is their instinct to hunt for prey.
Use a moving object or laser for cats to run after for physical stimulation. You can also buy a pet treadmill or any rotating toy to encourage them to move their body.
Good hygiene in cats helps prevent the multiplication of viruses and bacteria. You can prevent teeth and gum diseases if cats have good oral hygiene. Bathing your cat at least once a week or every two weeks can keep its body clean.
However, if your cat has fleas, ask your vet how often you bathe your cat and what products to use. Use cat-specific shampoo, conditioner, soap, and even toothpaste to ensure your cat’s safety.
Attending to your cat’s medical needs can prevent unnecessary additional illnesses. Providing your cat with proper medical attention as necessary can keep them away from harmful diseases. It can also make sure that your cat is not suffering from pain.
How to Help Cats Live Their Best Life
Now that we know that cats can suffer several illnesses and how to prevent them, here are some other tips on how to help your cat live its best life.
- Keep your cat hydrated – always offer them clean water to drink. You can have a drinking fountain to encourage your cat to drink water.
- Spay or neuter – spaying or neutering at the right age can significantly extend your cat’s life. This will also save them from some urinary or kidney illnesses.
- Keep the chemicals away – cats are naturally curious beings. Therefore, they are prone to sniffing and even licking deadly chemicals. Place these chemicals in areas your cats can’t reach, and keep them away while cleaning.
- Manage their weight – chunky cats are adorable! However, overweight cats are unhealthy, just like being underweight. So, manage your cat’s weight by feeding them on schedule and in the right amount.
- Visit the vet regularly – even if your cat is not sick, have a trip to the vet every once in a while. If your cat seems healthy, a once or twice-a-year visit would be enough. However, if your cat shows signs of a disease, don’t hesitate to bring it to the vet immediately or as often as necessary.